I am here to provide testimony in opposition of SB 899 — an Act Concerning Senior Safety Zones. My name is Cindy Prizio and I am the Executive Director of One Standard of Justice, a statewide civil rights advocacy organization. OSJ works with men and women arrested or convicted of sexual offenses and their families. I also identify as a member of a justice impacted family on both sides of the sexual offending issue. This group as a whole has many walls and barriers to living any kind of healthy productive lives.
Possibly the biggest barrier to reintegration is the sex offense public notification laws. While invoking public safety as the reason for their existence, the simple truth is that public notification fails to create safer communities or prevent sexual crime. Instead, the untoward harm to those mandated to register and their families, including their children, is a travesty. There is no evidence that public notification keeps us safer. The international multidisciplinary organization, the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA), has issued a research/policy paper in 2020 on reform recommendations of the sexual offense registration and notification laws (SORN). (https://OneStandardOfJustice.org/2020-ATSA-Reg-Reform-Adult.pdf) Primary among its recommendations was that registries should be returned to their original intent — a law enforcement only database. Connecticut’s original registry was law enforcement only with severe penalties for disclosure.
Dr. R. Karl Hanson, an internationally renowned researcher and co-creator of the most widely used risk assessment tool, STATIC99R, shared in a January 5 webinar sponsored by OSJ that: sexual recidivism is low; it is just unlikely that most people will sexually reoffend; and, the longer offense free in the community the less likely to reoffend. These numbers are already so low. A massive 20-year longitudinal study by the State of New York (10 years before the state created its registry and 10 years after) found that 95% of sexual crime arrests were of people who had never been arrested before.
In the February 19 webinar presented by Katherine Gotch, a national expert, she busted stranger danger as another widely believed myth. The fact is the majority of sexual crimes among adults and children are by people known to the victim — family members, police, clergy, coaches — the evidence supports social proximity rather than a geographic one.
Notification schemes, and the bill being heard today, promote a false sense of security based solely on emotion, not facts. We as a state must accept the overwhelming research on sexual reoffending in order to embrace solutions that work. We must move to upstream solutions and better use our scarce resources by investing in primary prevention, including treatment and education, before any crime occurs. An approach without public notification schemes can protect our citizens and create safe, sustainable communities.
While SB899 is well-intentioned, the state and its taxpayers will be throwing good money after bad— and doing nothing to help protect our vulnerable citizens — our seniors and our children. For these reasons One Standard of Justice strongly opposes SB899 and requests that you do too.
I have included: 1. the links to the webinars featuring Hanson and Gotch below or you can visit OneStandardOfJustice.org for access; and, 2. the ATSA Public Policy on Reform Recommendations to the sexual offense registry and notification (SORN). OSJ encourages every legislator to watch these webinars and join us on April 12 for an academic review of victims’ perspectives, trauma and healing.